[By L.R.Knost, best-selling author of The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood and Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages available on Amazon and through other major retailers.]
As we head toward Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I wanted to share some of the wonderful ideas I’ve been gathering about making gratitude and giving a standard of daily living along with a celebrated part of the holidays. Some of these ideas are ones we’ve done in our family for years, and some are new ideas I’m excited to try out!
1.) I believe the best way to raise generous, empathetic human beings is by being a generous, empathetic human being. So the first and most simple idea is just to live what we want our children to learn. If we want our children to be kind, we need to treat them and everyone else kindly. If we want them to be thankful, we should thank them regularly for the things they do and the blessings the are to us and to the world and let them see us being thankful for our own blessings. If we want them to be generous, we need to share what we have freely with them and let them see us giving to others. And if we want them to have the desire to serve, we must meet their needs fully so they will be free from focusing on trying to get their own needs met, and we should let them see us serving others on a regular basis.
2.) I absolutely love the idea of painting ‘Blessing Stones’ and scattering them around town for people to find. They don’t serve any specific purpose, and you’ll probably never know if they’ve been found. They’re simply a little blessing to brighten someone’s day unexpectedly. Your children can stamp or write words or even Bible verses on smooth stones, or they can paint hearts or smiley faces on them. You can even pray over the stones with your children first if you like, then simply take a walk around town and let your little ones ‘hide’ the rocks. What a fun way to share some smiles!
3.) Another idea I fell in love with was ‘Blessing Bags.’ The idea is to fill gallon sized ziploc bags with essentials such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, etc. and add in a water bottle and granola bar and whatever else you think someone in need might find helpful, then keep the bags in your car to give out whenever you come across anyone in need. Also, clicking on the ‘Blessing Bag’ pictured will take you to Kids With A Vision, a site filled with year-round ideas for helping children use their natural empathy to help others. Love it!
4.) Operation Christmas Child is a family favorite in our home. Every year we fill shoeboxes with small toys, pads of paper, coloring books, crayons, and more for children across the globe. It’s a wonderful Christmas tradition and a beautiful way of keeping the spirit of giving at the center of our celebrations.
5.) Another fun tradition that helps all of us to focus on giving during the holidays is playing ‘Secret Santa.’ I buy dollar store items for each of my children to open before bedtime on the twelve days leading up to Christmas, and they also get twelve dollars to spend on each other for ‘Secret Santa’ gifts. The joy and excitement they get from making each other happy is so touching and a great sibling bonding experience, too!
6.) Nursing Home Elves~Many years we’ve gone Christmas caroling at local nursing homes and have always been warmly welcomed by the residents and staff alike. We always bring homemade gifts like cookies, ornaments, or Christmas cards which are a labor of love from my children that bring tears to the eyes of the sweet elderly residents who receive them.
7.) We’ve also participated in special service opportunities such as passing out flyers in our local Christmas parade to help raise funds for a baby in need of a liver transplant and serving dinner to the families of terminally ill children at the Give Kids the World Village in a nearby city.
What are some ways your family focuses on giving during the holidays or year round?
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L.R.Knost is a best-selling parenting and children’s book author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting (Release date: May 2014) the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, as well as her children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series available from Amazon and other major retailers.